My bike club, Les Domestiques, has been very active in an effort to bring the Pan Am 2015 Velodrome to Milton. With financial support from key club members and the interest from the Town of Milton, the project is moving along nicely. However we needed to get more intel on what some of the best examples of world class sustainable velodromes were doing around the world, so with the help of Steve Bauer, members of Les Domestiques arranged to visit the UCI Velodrome in Aigle Switzerland, the Apeldoorn in Holland and Manchester Velodrome in the UK.
We began with an early departure to Geneva. Our trip to Aigle was highlighted by 45 minutes of riding on the UCI track where Steve us on some spirited laps around a fast, steeply banked “sprinters” track. Frederic Magne, who runs the velodrome (and is a former world sprint champion) gushed about how watching Steve win the silver at the 1984 Olympics got him into cycling. Travelling with Steve in Europe is like travelling with a rock star.
We learned a lot from Aigle. It was a track designed for athletes with great amenities, common sense functionality and the bonus of lots of natural light coming through the semi-transparent roof.
That same afternoon we headed off to Amsterdam then to Apeldoorn in the Netherlands to see a fairly new facility that showcased intensive multi-use between other sports and cycling. The facility was huge with separate gymnasium for ball sports, large restaurant, corporate meeting rooms and significant seating capacity. The downside was there was too much going on–it felt more like a sports facility with a cycling track versus a velodrome that could accommodate other uses.
The next morning we made short hop to Manchester. It was odd travelling on the other side of the road around the many round-abouts, but once we got to the velodrome we were pretty blown away. The tag line for the facility is “The Home of British Cycling” and they could not have had a better moniker. This was a truly world class facility with a fantastic track, great infield design, lots of seating and a $28 million indoor UCI homologated BMX track! Again the director of the facility was a huge Steve Bauer fan and insisted on photographs with Steve and an autograph. The interesting feature of the complex was the fact it has a full service bike shop and restaurant that also opened to the street–making it a destination for all. It was also situated next to Manchester City soccer stadium with easy access by train from downtown.
What did we learn from our trip?
- A successful velodrome can take on many shapes and sizes and vary significantly in programs.
- Focus on cycling first. Try to do too much and the concept gets diluted.
- Simple, efficient and practical wins over complex, impressive and big.
- The quality of the programs is as important as the quality of the facility.
- Getting the community and cycling associations on board is critical for long term success.
- Natural light is a good thing.
- The Swiss are ridiculously clean (you could eat off the bathroom floors at Aigle).
Wish us luck as we move this project to a successful completion!
For more information, including pictures and a video of Howard in full-Velodrome action, visit: http://www.lesdomestiques.com/?home=pan-am-2015-velodrome-3-cities-tour